A male friend calls up and enquires about my whereabouts. I tell him I am watching the football match between Argentina and Nigeria. There is laughter at the other end. “What do you know about football? Hey, don’t mistake that man with the whistle running after the ball to be a player. He is the referee!” And laughter again. Even if I screamed out the names of all the players, he’d think I was quoting them from some newspaper. His closed male brain cannot fathom a woman’s interest in sports.
This might be news to many men, but women are not dumb sports watchers. There are many among us, and it’s an increasing tribe, who enjoy sports just as much as men but with a slight difference. Unlike men, women are an honest audience, and when we do not follow something, we say so. Men will never do that. Even if a man has no clue what’s going on, you will find him assessing who the majority are rooting for and then do exactly the same.
I have heard men say that women watch sports only to check out handsome men and that’s the secret behind the female interest in the Fifa World Cup. By that logic, in India, the TRPs of the English Premier League should be right up there with Balika Vadhu. There has always been an intelligent female audience for sports in India and there has always been a puzzled man to every such woman. A case in point was my late mom. She was obsessed with cricket and understood every nuance of the game. My soldier father had no clue about the game, neither could he figure out her fascination, and, I suspect, it annoyed him.
Women are not counted among sports lovers because we do not feel the need to shout out our interest or enter into inane conversations. Women are quiet watchers. We do household chores when the commercials are on and come back to the game when it starts again. It’s true that women complain about the time their partners spend watching sports, but that’s mainly because, unlike other activities, men don’t involve them in it. For a man the concept of watching a game is ‘alone, in peace or with male buddies’. It is time that a man respects a woman’s interest in sports and starts considering the possibility that she may know a little more than him.